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Bear reports in 2020 spike by 44 per cent for Prince George bylaw, conservation officers

Four-week initiative kicks off to make city more aware ahead of winter hibernation
bear garbage
Bear ripping through a garbage bag. (via File photo)

Before bears hibernate for the winter, they try to fatten themselves up by eating garbage.

This is their reasoning for coming into Prince George and trying to scour through residents' trash bins and, according to the city, it’s already seen more than 1,300 interaction calls since April 1.

As a result of the spike, local bylaw and conservation officers are set to go door-to-door on ‘bear-awareness patrols’ the day before a neighbourhood’s garbage collection day in an education initiative to make sure home-owners are ready for the possibility of a bear or other wildlife encounter on their property.

Officers will be enduring this safety over the next four weeks ahead of the winter months following 500 total problematic wildlife calls in September alone.

The city says conservation crews already received a 44 per cent jump in calls for 2020 already compared to just 900 in all of 2019.

“The consequences of providing bears with easy access to unnatural food sources are obvious: more bears and more bears needing to be put down,” the city says in a statement.

It also notes in the past year, 300 bear-resistant home garbage carts in the Hart Highlands region were introduced in a pilot project to help reduce the risk, as well as the installment of 50 signs across Prince George in active bear areas.

“Bears can obtain, in one garbage cart, the same amount of nutrients they can obtain in almost an entire day of foraging in the wild and well-fed sows produce more cubs. Food that is more available means bears are more tolerant of other bears and of humans - which is bad for bears and bad for people.”

The fine for leaving a garbage cart outside a home before 4 a.m. on collection day is $300.

The City’s Property Maintenance Bylaw states a $200 fine will also be handed out if residents keep attractants like birdfeeders and fruit trees in a way that’s accessible to local wildlife.

City tips to ‘bear-proof’ a home, regardless of neighbourhood, include:

  • Storing garbage carts inside structures like garages and sheds whenever possible, or secure its lid using rope, bungee cord, and other devices such as a ratchet strap
  • Not growing fruit-bearing trees or plants on your property and regularly remove any ripe fruit and vegetables
  • Cleaning outdoor barbecues and grease traps regularly
  • Feeding pets indoors and removing bird feeders in spring and fall
  • Rinsing out recycling materials

For more information on bear safety, you’re encouraged to visit the City of Prince George website.